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Spotlight On: Telluride School District's Affordable Teacher Housing

Thursday, November 29, 2018  
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Spotlight On: Telluride School District's Affordable Teacher Housing

Communication Matters Newsletter — August 29, 2018

Superintendents have hard jobs. From maintaining relationships with school boards, families and teachers, to making tough decisions and serving as the face of a school district, days off are few and far between.

So, adding ‘landlord’ to the job description can’t make things easier.

But, in an effort to attract and recruit teacher talent from out of state, that’s exactly what some superintendents are doing. In fact, Telluride School District is nearing the end of its latest construction project: six three-bedroom, three-bathroom affordable housing units, designed especially for teacher use.

 

Some of the new three-bed, three-bath units in Telluride

 

“The challenge is that teacher salaries and their compensation and ability to get into housing is based on the constraints of school finance,” said Telluride superintendent Mike Gass.

“If we can’t pay them more, we have to find ways to make it cheaper for them to live, and one of the ways to do that is to make your own rental pool and use that piece to recruit them.”

This latest batch of units—the first set of three-bedroom apartments owned by the school district—bring Telluride’s pool of teacher housing up to about 11 available rentals. Gass expects they will be finished with construction by October 2018.

While teachers with families can certainly apply to rent the larger units for themselves and their families, they are also designed for single teachers to combine incomes and live together.

“Teachers or staff that have families that need a bigger place [can use them] but that’s probably about half of what the market is,” Gass said. “Teachers are allowed to stay there for a defined period of time, typically it’s two years. If someone’s coming from out of town, I may give them for a reduced rent for a period of time.”

 

These modern units for teachers include parking - a "holy grail" in a resort town, like Telluride, said Gass.

 

Telluride is not the only school district to build housing specifically for school staff—and the concept is not a new one. The school district first started building these units about 15-20 years ago, Gass said, and they weren’t the first to do so.

The new units are large, and like Telluride’s other housing units, their prices are competitive. The smallest units range in rent from about $700-$800, the midsized level go for about $1,200, and the new largest units will be priced at $1,800. While they don’t come furnished, they are stocked with all major appliances and—here’s a perk—they include garages.

“In Telluride, that’s like the holy grail,” Gass said.

CASE Executive Director Lisa Escárcega visited the units recently to take a look for herself. In a word, she said, “they’re fabulous.”

“It’s no secret that Colorado needs to be better about recruiting and retaining great teacher talent,” she said. “Finding affordable housing in higher-end resort towns, like Telluride, can be impossible—especially when you consider the salary level we’re able to offer our people. These units aren’t just functional; they’re beautiful places to live, and I imagine they’ll be a major highlight for moving to Telluride, which is a beautiful town, in and of itself.”

Her hunch isn’t wrong—the units have been pretty successful so far, Gass said.

“I think it allowed us this year to get some high-need positions filled, like math, especially, and dual immersion,” he said.

Eventually, he’d love to see Telluride build out even more units. But the constraints of a resort community are challenging, he added.

“It comes down to if I can find a place to do it. Certainly, I would expand our housing if I had the ability to find the land. [In a resort community], you’re competing with open market, high-end housing units.”

For now, though, as Telluride teachers and students start gearing up for a new school year, Gass is hopeful that these units will allow him to bring even more great talent to the district.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to help make our district a place where people can enjoy life while they’re trying to help our kids,” he said.


Are you interested in being featured in one of our Spotlight stories? Is your school or district doing something worthy of a shout-out? Be it a district-wide project, a school-specific milestone or even a staff member who goes above and beyond, we want to know! Email CASE Communications Specialist Elisa Wiseman with your story or shout-out for a chance to be featured on our website, and in a future Communication Matters newsletter. Get in touch with her atewiseman@co-case.org.

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